The head of GPRS at third network Meteor has claimed that rivals Vodafone and O2 have missed the boat by focusing on picture messaging as the demand driver behind multimedia messaging services.
Speaking at the Wireless Wednesday event in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel yesterday, Warren Harding, GPRS project manager at Meteor, commented: "We decided a long time ago that there's no point being first to market; we've let our competitors educate the market. Unfortunately, they've not done a fabulous job; they've just concentrated on picture messaging. Picture messaging is not going to drive revenues in years to come."
Saying that phone users would get tired of "sending pictures of their granny", he cited Norwegian data which suggested that the popularity of picture messaging is starting to wane and that voice services were coming back to centre stage as the appeal of picture messaging wore off. The mistake being made by O2 and Vodafone, Harding claimed, is they see MMS as a communications service whereas Meteor sees it as an entertainment service.
"Too many people get tired of picture messaging. To make MMS work you've got to give people a better proposition than just camera phones," he declared.
Meteor recently launched a range of MMS services – free until the end of January – in partnership with content providers Acotel, Thomas Crosbie Media and email provider Eyecom. In doing so, it trailed O2 and Vodafone's MMS launch by nearly a year. Harding said that growth in demand for MMS services was being impeded by a number of factors, primarily the lack of interoperability between different mobile networks but also interoperability between different manufacturers' handsets, a lack of appealing content services and excessively high pricing models. On the latter score, Harding said that Meteor's priority was to make MMS affordable to consumers when it starts charging for these services next February. "You can't get away with ripping off consumers any more," he said, taking a thinly veiled swipe at O2 and Vodafone's pricing models.
Harding added that Meteor was looking at adding to its roster of services which currently includes 'lifestyle alerts' such as movie and soccer news as well as picture messaging and email to your mobile. New services are planned to include news alert coverage of Heineken rugby, GAA and Eircom League with instant messaging and video streaming services to possibly come later.
Speaking at the same event, Gavin Barrett, business development manager of Nokia Ireland, said that MMS was finally reaching its potential in Ireland. "'Handset penetration is no longer an issue or an excuse. MMS is reaching mass market penetration and advanced services are starting to emerge," he said.
Commenting on the impact of MMS on existing SMS (ie, text messaging) services, he said: 'MMS is not cannibalising SMS. They are growing together but MMS is on a steeper growth curve."
By Brian Skelly